A police officer in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, fatally shot a knife-wielding suspect with a history of violence over the weekend, sparking protests Monday night that had elements of vandalism and arson.
The officer was responding to a “reported domestic disturbance involving a person with a knife,” on Sunday afternoon, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.
While the investigation is ongoing, body-cam footage from the scene suggests that the officer reasonably feared for his safety when 27-year-old Ricardo Munoz came charging out of the residence armed with an edged weapon.
Yet despite the fact that the video was made public in the immediate aftermath of the incident, perhaps in an effort to help quell racial tensions or counter speculation that the officer used excessive force in defense of himself, protesters were gathering in the streets by 7 p.m. outside the police station in downtown Lancaster, chanting, “No justice, no peace.”
Things took a turn for the worse when demonstrators began smashing police cars, throwing bricks and setting refuse on fire. Law enforcement would use “chemical munitions” and pepper spray to disperse the crowd. Eight people were arrested in connection to the rioting.
Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace addressed the public on Monday.
“I need help. We need help,” Sorace said, “I am clear beyond a doubt that we lack the tools, the resources, the expertise and the capacity to do this on our own here in the City of Lancaster.”
Sorace was seeking guidance from leaders across the state not on how to keep violent protesters in check– but on how government agencies can more effectively respond to situations involving deadly threats.
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“We need an evidence-based protocol for responding,” she said. “What is that protocol?”
“Additionally, how do we create and staff a system that can respond 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and within minutes? These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered to create a countywide plan,” she said.
Munoz, who was arrested previously for stabbing at least two people and was awaiting trial on four counts of aggravated battery, suffered from schizophrenia, according to his parents.
In an interview with WJAC, Munoz’s mother said that she doesn’t believe her son would have hurt the officer and that they had first called Crisis Intervention in an effort to de-escalate the situation.
But the responding agent instructed the couple to call the police.
“I called the police and I was thinking that they would bring my son to the hospital yesterday, not kill him,” explained Miguelina Pina, Munoz’s mother.
“That’s what we are waiting for,” continued Munoz’s stepfather, Victor Fernandez.
Both believe the system let them down.
“There is no help here. There is nothing here,” Fernandez said. “I can’t even imagine that this city doesn’t have a psychiatric here. If you get crazy, you die yourself.”
The officer, whose name has not yet been released, has been placed on administrative leave.